“The Photography of Terry O'Neill: New & Unseen” opens today at the Morrison Hotel Gallery, showcasing 24 of the legendary lensman's photographs that haven't been publicly viewed before now. During a career that has spanned six decades, he was one of the few to shoot the Beatles and the Rolling Stones before they became famous.
“I got all the first pictures of the groups in newspapers, so I became quite important to them,” O'Neill said at the opening reception for the exhibition last night. “I used to photograph the Beatles four times a week, the Stones a couple of times a week.”
Despite all of the time spent snapping the Fab Four, it wasn't easy to get good shots of them. “It was funny, the Stones made good pictures, but the Beatles didn't,” he said. The main difference to him was that the Stones came across as individuals, while the Beatles appeared as more uniform during photo sessions.
O'Neill's illustrious career began when the aspiring musician took a job as a photographer with British Airways and serendipitously wound up shooting a prominent politician sleeping in the airport. “One day I noticed a little old man asleep in a chair surrounded by African chiefs and their wives in their wonderful national costumes. I didn’t realize it was Rab Butler, the then Home Secretary. Remember this was the days of Empire – one of the most important politicians in the world was taking a nap in an airport,” according to his website “A reporter tapped me on the shoulder and asked to buy my film and the next thing his editor is asking me for more. Within a couple of years I was one of the highest paid photographers on Fleet Street.”
The exhibition will run through July 10, at the Morrison Hotel Gallery SoHo loft at 116 Prince Street (212-941-8770). Most of the images range from $2,300 through $12,500, except for three premium prints (Brigitte Bardot Cigar; Beatles Backyard, Abbey Road; David Bowie Diamond Dogs) for which the pricing is available upon inquiry to the gallery.
Later this year, “Terry O'Neill's Rock 'n' Roll Album” will be published by Antique Collectors' Club Distribution.